Tips from a Low-Income Year-Round Organic Locavore
By Elizabeth Henderson
When I moved to a farm back in 1980, I became a year-round locavore.  My plan was to stay out of supermarkets.  If I could not grow it myself, trade for it with neighbors, or buy it in the food coop, we did not have it.   On our 49-acre old Boyle Farm on Boyle Road, Gill, MA, we dug raised beds, planted vegetables and raspberries, raised chickens and rabbits, and foraged fruit from old apple trees, wild elderberries, blackberries and grapes.  I traded baby chestnut trees for two Jacob ewes to start our own flock, and for two years fed piglets that grew into hogs that I slaughtered and butchered using Putting Food By as a guide.  An old farmer up the road put out a sign – “bee hives for sale.”  I offered to buy them if he would teach me how to do bee keeping.  He was not sure a woman was suitable as a bee keeper, but reluctantly agreed and turned out to be one of the best teachers I have ever had in any subject. From friends, I learned how to bake bread and make jams, jellies and pickles, and how to can fruit and vegetables. I traded raspberries for fresh milk and made my own yogurt. For winter storage, we constructed an underground root cellar recycling the ruins of the old barn.  I purchased a chest freezer and filled it annually with a bushel of broccoli, a bushel of green beans, and many cuts of meat.
If you are living in the city, there is still a lot you can learn from us country homesteaders.  At this time of year (September), local organic produce farms are overloaded with crops.  The farmers sell the most perfect vegetables or fruit, but there is always crop that is blemished in some way yet still perfectly good to eat.  At Peacework Farm, we call this our “factory rejects,” and most of what I eat is of this quality.  You can buy these seconds directly from a farm or arrange to pick up a bushel or two at the farmers market.  You can put up tomato sauce, salsa, ketchup, etc. at way below the price of buying organic processed products in the store during the winter.  If you do not know how to can safely, the Cornell Cooperative Extension offers courses.  The best way to learn is to do it alongside someone who knows how.  Volunteer to help, and I am sure you will find mentors.
Freezing is a better alternative for greens like broccoli, beans or spinach.  If you want to can them, to make sure these vegetables do not harbor botulism, you have to cook them so long that they turn to mush. Before freezing, you must blanch greens for a few minutes and remove all water. There are guides that tell you the correct timing.  On the other hand, you can freeze berries and peppers without any cooking.  Those red peppers that sell for $3.99 a pound in the winter, go for $10 a bushel at this time of year.
Even in an apartment, you can create a cool space that you can use as a “root cellar” to store potatoes, beets, and other root crops for the winter.  You can convert a small bedroom, a closet or a space in your entrance hall or garage where you can wall off a section and keep the temperature at around 50 degrees. A metal garbage can works well as a storage container that keeps out rodents. If you leave the roots on leeks, you can keep them for months in a cool place. Winter squash and onions also store well in a cool, but dryer space.  Garlic will keep for a month or two, though it is safer to peel it, chop it and freeze it in small containers, enough for a week’s cooking.  In the frig, chopped garlic in oil may become infected with botulism unless you soak the garlic in vinegar for 24 hours first and that changes the flavor.
The prices for organic produce are higher than conventional but remember that organic premium helps keep local farmers in business. Family-scale conventional farms in NY have dropped like flies over the past 50 years because the farm gate price does not cover the costs of production. But timing your purchases well and learning some homesteading skills, you can economize while eating food of the highest quality.  And you can transform canning and freezing from a chore into a DIY party by inviting friends.  The less cash we all require, the freer we become from the pressures of the mainstream economy.  One day, we will pool our resources and invest in a cooperative storage space with a processing kitchen – maybe one for every neighborhood.  Locavore eating is good for us and good for our planet!


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Beautiful Day at the Brighton Community Garden!

Sue Gardner Smith giving history and background on the garden
When I left for the tour at the Brighton Community Garden on Sunday it was pouring rain at our house. I was going simply to tell people that we'd be rescheduling the tour! Ten minutes later, when I got there, it was a beautiful sunny day!!! About twenty people turned up, many driving through the rain to get to this sunny spot. Sue Gardner Smith, one of the key organizers of the garden, gave a good history and overview of the garden, with lots of questions and lively discussion. We then all wandered the garden, looking at plots and talking with a number of members of the community garden. About 4:30, as we were finishing up, a heavy rain started. So grateful for the cooperative weather in making this tour a success. More information on the Brighton Community Garden can be found at www.brightonfarmersmarket.org/bcg/.
The entrance to the Brighton Community Garden, which contains 100 10x10 plots, each tended by community members who use organic methods. Demand is great for the plots and currently are only available for Brighton residents. Because of the demand, there's discussion of expanding the garden further.

Talking with one of the gardeners about what's growing!


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Two Days at Polyface Farm

Joel Salatin describing "hot" composting
In July, we visited Polyface Farms for a two-day farming intensive where we learned about the innovative farming techniques that Joel Salatin has developed over the past forty years. There are some remarkable things about his operation. First, his grazing practices not only produce large quantities of animals, but at the end of each year the fields and more fertile and productive than the year before. Much of this is accomplished by management practices that pay attention to both the needs of the animals and the needs of the pastures.  Second is the scale of the operation: he wants to show that sustainable farming is a viable alternative to industrial agriculture. Each year he produces 25,000 chickens, 3000 turkeys, 700 hogs, 200 cows, 800 rabbits, hundreds of thousands of eggs. Everything is sold locally (within about 200 miles from the farms). Sales divide between the store on the farm, restaurants, and online ordering with food delivered to pick-off destinations weekly. What is most surprising is the apparent simplicity of the overall operation - no heavy farm equipment or fancy devices. Much of the infrastructure there is is hand build from resources found on site. By working with nature, much is accomplished with electric fences, an extensive water distribution system, and the animals themselves.  In the next few blog entries I'll be highlighting some of the things we learned over the two days.
Here are the chicken tractors, one of the things Salatin is best known for. They allow the chickens to be moved every day so they have fresh grass. Each unit provides sun and shade and, of course, water and feed. They also are put in pastures where they follow a few days after the cows, after they have "mowed" the grass and new tender shoots are growing.  Each 10 by 12 tractor can hold 75 chickens.
The unit is moved daily using a simple handtruck that slips under one end. When pushed to the ground it lifts the back slightly on its wheels. The unit can then be easily moved by one person by pulling from the other end. The whole operation takes less than a minute. A key thing to remember is to build the unit with light materials so it is easy to handle. They use small size lumber and metal roofing materials, using cross braces to give strength without adding weight. 
See the difference in the grass after one day (upper left half of photo). The chickens have eaten all the tender grass tips and the ground is covered with chicken manure. Leaving the chickens there another day would start to injure the grass and delay its recovery, and the chickens would not be getting the fresh grass. Even with constant access to grass, 80% of their nutrition still comes from provided grain.  The grazing, however, provides the natural nutrients in a rich diet that cannot be found in a commercial  chicken operation where they only get feed.

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Zucchini Flower Recipe

Stuffed and Fried Zucchini Flowers

from the Slow Food Chefs collection

Ingredients


1 cup all-purpose flour

~ Pinch of salt

1 egg, separated

cup dry white wine

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

cup warm water

6 anchovies, packed in salt (see Note)

12 zucchini flowers

4 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into sticks

~ Olive or vegetable oil for deep-frying

~ Salt

Steps

  1. Place the flour and the pinch of salt in a small bowl. Add the egg yolk, white wine, olive oil, and warm water, and stir with a whisk to blend well. Cover with plastic wrap and let the batter rest one hour.
  2. Beat the egg white in a clean bowl until soft mounds form. Fold it into the batter.
  3. Soak the anchovies in water for 10 minutes, then rinse and fillet them.
  4. Remove the stamen carefully from each zucchini flower and discard. Place a stick of mozzarella and half an anchovy fillet inside each flower.
  5. Pour the oil to a depth of 1 inch in a deep sauté pan and heat to 360 degrees.
  6. Carefully dip the flowers in the batter, then fry them in the hot oil until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Notes

If you can’t find salted anchovies, substitute a good-quality anchovy in olive oil. For a different filling, try small spoonfuls of ricotta instead of the mozzarella sticks. Skip the anchovies and add sautéd garlic, minced chives, salt, and pepper to the ricotta instead.
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2nd Annual Farm Dinner! Need your help!

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We had a great pot luck last Sunday. The food was delicious, very creative & fresh! There were plenty of engaging discussions & also a few short movie clips.
We are planning a large farm dinner September 22nd at Honeyhill Farm http://honeyhillorganicfarm.com/   I am looking for some volunteers to help with the planning. Please let me know if you can help out. We need people to do computer work, help with menu design, marketing, designing the poster/invitation, setting up at the event, cooking, etc. If we could find some free entertainment that would make the event more festive.
We can use donations of food from farmers, local wine or other beverages such as cider, beer or non alcoholic beverages. If there are chefs/ restaurants who would like to partner with us let me know! The dinner will be on a Sunday afternoon & children are welcome. Help us make the 2nd Annual Table to Farm Dinner a great success.
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